- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

The one-game suspension of Washington Redskins free safety Mark Carrier was upheld by the NFL yesterday, leaving Carrier out of Sunday's game against Detroit and ensuring that the Pro Bowl player will miss his third game in as many seasons for an improper hit.
The decision came down in the evening. Afterward Carrier, in his first comments since pleading his case to league officials Wednesday in New York, complained of being unfairly treated.
"No doubt about it," Carrier said. "It was told to me, 'If this was anybody else, this might be a $7,500 fine, no problem. But because it was you, Mark, and because of your past, we have to do something.' … That's just unfair."
Carrier, 32, will miss one paycheck, valued at just under $26,000, and may be fined, the NFL said in a release. Carrier's last penalty, incurred in November 1999, resulted in a $50,000 fine and one-game suspension.
This incident marks the seventh time Carrier has been reprimanded for a hit during his 11-year career. The suspension was issued by NFL director of football operations Gene Washington and upheld by executive vice president Jeff Pash. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will determine next week whether Carrier will be fined.
The NFL's release acknowledged that Sunday's helmet-to-helmet hit on Carolina tight end Wesley Walls was not as egregious as some of Carrier's earlier one.
"Conduct similar to that for which Mr. Carrier has been disciplined in the past would have certainly justified a multi-game suspension," Pash wrote in his decision. "The fact that the suspension will be limited to one game … reflects the actual circumstances of Sunday's play, and that it was different in character from at least certain previous plays."
But the league's admission that Carrier acted without malice led him to believe he shouldn't have been penalized at all. Carrier even walked through the play with Washington in an attempt to find out how he could have avoided a penalty.
"We tried it my way and we tried it his way, and both ways we were going to collide accidentally," Carrier said. "It's unfortunate … to bring in my past instead of deciding on the merit of that play."
Carrier stressed that he will not change his tactics.
"I play football," he said. "If I can't make a play on the ball, I can't do my job, and if I can't do my job, I'm not going to be here."
Carrier's suspension leaves fifth-year veteran Matt Stevens to start at free safety. Stevens led the Redskins with six interceptions last season while playing strong safety. Stevens yesterday split snaps with Carrier, who was allowed to practice pending his appeal.
"Matt's ready to go," coach Norv Turner said. "He's played an awful lot of football, plus [there's] the fact that we're coming right out of preseason. He played half of the preseason at that position."
Stevens, however, was burned conspicuously several times last season. Turner attributed those plays to inexperience and the fact that strong safeties have to worry about the run as much as the pass.
"If you're asked to be the run defender, you're going to be more aggressive," Turner said. "If you're the deeper guy, you're not going to be up there as much, and you won't be as affected by the play-action."
The Redskins will use defensive back David Terrell and perhaps second-string strong safety Josh Symonette to back up Stevens. However, the team must compensate for the absence of Carrier's leadership.
"Mark was a guy that kept us together," starting strong safety Sam Shade said. "Mark was our vocal leader… . He's a great communicator. Now we've got to communicate even more."
The Redskins gain a brief opening in the roster if they want to promote a player from the practice squad. Wide receiver Derrius Thompson is a candidate, considering the nagging injuries at that position.

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